Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Never Stop Exploring…..

This past week I was in Quito, Ecuador for The North Face Ecuador 80k trail race. I had such an amazing time! It was so different racing in South America and I got to spend the week with some amazing people and run in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was truly an amazing experience.
Never Stop Exploring…… That was the theme of the week. There were so many crazy things that we encountered over the week and we really just had to roll with it. Everything was an adventure, which made it even more exciting.

View of the Cumbaya Valley near Quito
TNF Training Run
Pre-race Technical Meeting

Hanging out at 4000 meters!
Quito is at 3000 meters, which is approximately 10,000ft above sea level. Thankfully we arrived a few days before the race to acclimate to the altitude. We did a few runs   in Quito and also took a tram to the top of the mountain to really get some altitude training and see the beautiful view!  I usually do ok with altitude and was happy that I didn't feel too bad running so high. I was expecting pretty hot weather since Ecuador is very close to the equator, but due to the high altitude it doesn't actually get very hot. It was a pleasant 60 degrees and partly sunny for most of our trip which was perfect for running!

 The race took place in small village, San Pablo del Lago, Zuleta which is about 2 hours outside of Quito. The village was right on a lake with mountains surrounding it on either side. It was beautiful! The race course had a lot of vertical, stating went with a huge climb up a mountain that was so tall the top was in the clouds!

The race started at 4:00am, which meant a 2:15 wake up call. I have never been up running that early, let alone racing, so it was a totally new experience. I was surprised at how good I felt. I was awake and ready to go. The start of the race was exciting! There was music blaring and a huge screen showing footage of other TNF races around the world. As the countdown approached zero, fireworks were shot out of the start gate and the race began! It was definitely exciting!

Helen, Jordan, and I pre-race

Race Morning

Running in the dark early on

Running in the dark is tough. The race organizers did a good job of trying to mark the trail, but at 4:00am it is so dark that its tough to see. I ended up getting lost about 10 times during the race. Not just ran off trail a little way, but full on run a mile in the wrong direction or spend 10 minutes searching for the trail. It was a frustrating to keep losing my way, but almost everyone had the same experience. Helen was ahead of me for the first couple hours and then found each other both lost in the same spot. I'd have to say I was really relieved to find Helen and have a friendly face to be lost with! We spent the next 3-4 hours running together trying to navigate the trail. We also ran with Jordan for awhile. He was suffering some pretty bad stomach issues and decided to just run easy with us. Despite getting lost and having so many issues, it was really nice to all run together. It was one of my favorite parts of the race :)

Helen and I running together about halfway through the race
Around 55k I started to feel amazing! This was totally different from my last, and only other 50 mile race (Lake Sonoma) I've run. I started to pick up my pace and was able to run pretty fast. I pushed hard for the next 20k and past about 15-20 men. It felt great to be passing people rather than just trying to make it to the finish line!


Add caption
Then it happened again. I got lost. Really lost. I was about 10k from the finish and running with a group about 10 other runners when we came to a 3-way intersection. There were no markings and none of us were sure where to go. It was especially challenging for me since I don't know any spanish! While the other runners stood discussing where to go, I just stood there helplessly since I don't know any Spanish! There were several villagers out watching the race that started pointing down one of the trails. Through hand gestures and body language I understood that the villagers were pointing the direction we were supposed to run. I asked one of the runners who spoke a little English 'if he was sure this was right', because I really didn't want to go the wrong way. He shrugged and said 'I think so'. That was good enough for me. I felt so helpless because I didn't know where to go and I couldn't understand anything that anyone was saying! We kept running and soon after saw yellow arrows indicating we were on course, or so we thought. We kept running following the trail which did lead us to the finish line. I crossed the line as the first female and was all smiles. I was so happy with my race despite getting lost and having such a difficult time early on.
Crossing the finish line in first, or so I thought :)
Happy Finishers!

I had no idea that I had missed part of the course, otherwise I would have gone back and re-run it. I was pretty far ahead and think I would have still had time to run the part I missed. I ended up getting a 3-hour time penalty for going off course. I was pretty disappointed when I found out because I don't think I missed that much. The time penalty put me back in 3rd (I think- I'm still not sure I ever found official results). Since everyone got so lost the results were pretty much invalid. It was more just a battle to find the finish! I was really happy with my effort and despite the result still very happy with the day. It really was an adventure…..we crossed fields, farms, ran through villages, next to pigs, cows, and chickens, got followed by stray dogs, crawled through barbed wire, ran down a rocky dried up creek bed for about a mile, and got to see some of the most beautiful countryside in the world!
TNF Athletes

Never stop Exploring……

No comments:

Post a Comment